The Chofetz Chaim’s Suitcase
When they asked us, literally with tears in their eyes, why we were moving to Jerusalem – to a much smaller and much more expensive rented dump – it was hard to find an answer they’d accept.
Because the only answer for why we moved here back then is ‘we think that’s what God wants us to do.’
Were we convinced ourselves? Mostly. But that first year was a baptism of fire, and we spent most of it trying to deal with teens who were feeling so miserable, and also feeling so angry at us, for messing up their lives.
And what made it worse is that they had a point.
I’ve written about that year a lot, not least in The Secret Diary of a Jewish Housewife, but over the last four years, I’ve been given a lot more reasons why we moved to Jerusalem. Like, I feel so much happier here, the bloke feels so much happier here, we both got ‘real’ here, and stopped feeling like the ‘biggest tzaddik in town’ (a problem that happens very easily if you’re trying to be more machmir than most of your neighbors.)
As a family, we get on so much better these days, and a lot of that has to do with living in close quarters with each other, so teenagers (or mothers…) can’t permanently escape for weeks at a time by closing themselves up in their rooms.
So on the real stuff, the inner dimension stuff, Jerusalem has been such a blessing.
But it’s still hard, sometimes, like this morning, when I schlepped my family off to see another potential rental in Rehavia, and the youngest kid got profoundly depressed and angry about the whole situation again, because we’d have to chuck out most of our furniture to fit into that flat.
“Why are we living in Jerusalem?!” she wanted to know. “Just because some ‘rav’ said so?! Weren’t we meant to get a nice house from doing what he said?! Why can’t we just move out and live somewhere normal, and then you can come back here when we’ve left home and live in some small, rented yucky place!”
Hmmm. Something to look forward to.
Because the last few months, I’ve also had some big struggles over what the heck is going on, and why, and some big questions than I can’t really find answers for.
I’ve noticed the last three or so months that a lot of people are being hit with some ginormous issues, mostly connected with money problems and houses.
Some of these people are mamash tzaddikim – like really.
And some of the tests these people going through have been stretching on for so long now, literally years, that it’s kind of mind-boggling that they’re still going.
How is it possible, to keep standing up in this stuff, to keep moving forward, to keep retaining emuna, to keeping having a smile on your face and words of Torah on your lips?
And yet, somehow, it is.
So I explained to my kid that we are all going through some huge tests at the moment, and that I appreciate that the house thing is a very big test for her too, and that right now, I don’t have answers for why it has to be so difficult.
But I also told her what I’m telling myself, over and over again: thank God it’s just house stuff, it’s just money problems. Thank God, if we have to go through some big difficulties right now, that they are only manifesting as money problems.
The teen didn’t exactly start smiling when I’d finished my speech – these are very hard concepts to understand, and there are people five times her age who are still struggling with the idea of happily accepting God’s will, when it’s so clearly going against their own.
But, she stopped ranting.
She started thinking.
And I know that by this afternoon, she’ll bounce back again and start to see that the good far outweighs the bad, even with all our difficulties.
And I think it’s also an inyan of encouraging more of us to pull out of the heavy materialism of our world, and to ‘live in the corridor’ a bit more. This world is only a corridor, a passage way leading to real world, i.e. the world of the soul.
The Chofetz Chaim famously kept his suitcase by his door, in case Moshiach showed up and he’d have to jump on the boat to Israel. I’m not at that level, but when I see my books still packed in their boxes; when I realise I can’t change or paint anything because it’s just rented; when I don’t buy any new furniture, because I have no idea where I’m going to be living in another six months and whether it will ‘fit’ – I have a small taste of the Chofetz Chaim’s suitcase.
And probably, that’s not a bad thing.